SINCE Pakistan and India agreed on a need to address each other’s concern for territorial integrity and protection against covert operations, it shouldn’t be hard for them to define a framework in which a process for resolution of all pending disputes, in particular Kashmir, will be agreed on.
This can be accomplished by efforts to conclude a no-war pact. A long history reveals why those efforts failed but can well succeed now.
On Dec 22, 1949, prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru handed over to Pakistan’s high commissioner to India the draft of a joint declaration renouncing “resort to war for the settlement of any existing or future disputes between them”. Prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan countered on Sept 26, 1950, by accepting it almost verbatim but providing for “arbitration of all points of difference” in their disputes. Nehru sought to freeze the status quo on Kashmir. It is, however, a political dispute which is not susceptible to arbitration or adjudication.
In 1981, Pakistan offered a no-war pact in a statement announcing acceptance of US military aid. A formal note followed proposing talks on the pact. India responded in December that year, proposing that the Shimla Agreement be “the basis” for relations between them.
‘The key lies in stopping violence’.
Pakistan’s aide-memoire of Jan 12, 1982, spelt out elements of the pact giving primacy to the UN Charter over the Shimla pact. One of Pakistan’s ablest diplomats, Agha Shahi, arrived in New Delhi with a draft non-aggression deal.
K. Natwar Singh went to Islamabad as special envoy, in May 1982 to resume talks. He was presented with a draft of a non-war treaty. M.K. Rasgotra, India’s foreign secretary, arrived in Islamabad in June to present India’s draft treaty of peace, friendship and cooperation.
It introduced two contentious elements — no alliances and no bases on their soil “to any Great Power”. It also went beyond the Shimla pact by qualifying bilateral talks with the word “exclusively” which had been dropped at Shimla.
In Murree in May 1984, however, foreign secretaries M.K. Rasgotra and Niaz A. Naik achieved a near breakthrough. Differences were narrowed to two points — bilateralism and bases and alliances.
These two issues have become irrelevant after the Cold War.
Interestingly, the minutes of consultation agreed in the talks between Abdul Sattar and Alfred Gonsalves in February 1987 simply said “Both sides agree not to attack each other”. It resolved the impasse following India’s Operation Brasstacks which nearly brought the two countries to war.
There matters remained in deep freeze. Rasgotra’s recent memoir A Life in Diplomacy contains a record of his talks with “the Chief Executive (CE) General Pervez Musharraf” in Islamabad on Aug 7, 2000.
He says: “I asked CE whether his most recent offer, through the Pak press, a no-war pact, as in the case of past such offers, was conditional upon a prior solution of Kashmir. (Foreign Minister Sattar had told me on the 1st of August that the matter had not been thought through). I mentioned for his information that as foreign secretary I had myself negotiated a no-war pact/ friendship treaty with Pakistan between 1982 and 1984, which Pakistan for some reason chose not to sign at the end. The CE might, I said, have the matter looked into, and if he so felt fresh negotiations could be undertaken on the subject separately from other issues.”
Even more relevant to our times is this exchange: “I added: ‘You sure have some problems in your part of Kashmir, we are not adding to your difficulties. (He did not cavil at or contest this). We have problems on our side, which Pakistan-sponsored violence has aggravated. Political wisdom demands that you handle your problems peacefully and leave us alone to handle ours peacefully. When the situation is calmed, India and Pakistan, as sovereign entities, should sit together and address the issue and amicably resolve it to mutual satisfaction or mutual dissatisfaction. The key lies in stopping violence and creating a proper environment for the dialogue.’
“CE: ‘Rasgotra Sahib, as for violence I know what we are doing; and I also know what you are doing. I’ll say no more’. I tried to draw him out a bit, but he simply repeated the sentence and asked me not to press him, for elaboration.
“This was the most enigmatic (and pregnant) sentence of this conversion. We should carefully consider its implications. Are we doing anything in Pakistan similar to what Pak is doing in the Valley?”
This is the heart of the matter in 2016. Preparatory work, as diplomats call it, can help — accept the territorial integrity of each side; abjure covert or overt operations against each other; and recognise that the future of Jammu and Kashmir is yet to be settled as Para 6 of the Shimla Pact mandates.
The talks must begin soon.
The writer is an author and a lawyer based in Mumbai